Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Matisyahu, live in Ashvegas

Tuesday in Ashvegas, a unique new musical talent will be coming to town. The hipsters, the cool kids, already know who will be playing the Orange Peel and have long ago bought their tickets (the show's sold out).

We're talking about Matisyahu, the Hasidic reggae artist.
I know. I know. You're probably laughing. Thinking "flash in the pan," or novelty act, at best. If you're thinking that, think again. This guy is breaking big. Huge. He's already appeared on Letterman and a couple of other late night talk shows. His second CD, "Live at Stubb's," has been No. 1 on Billboard's reggae chart for the past five weeks. He's got a video on MTV. His third album, "Youth," was released March 7.

This guy's for real. He's got jam band roots growing up following the Grateful Dead and hanging with Phish. He's got religion. He converted to his Orthodox ways after foundering with bad grades and drugs. Now he's shooting for the top. Here's what a recent Washington Post reporter had to say:

"Backstage at Madison Square Garden, Matisyahu cuts a striking figure, more rabbinical than reggae, 6 feet 3, all Talmudic beard and tzitzit fringe, shaking hands with the men, smiling at the women, saying, yes, yes, hopefully, one day soon, he'll be the one headlining. God willing.

"Just minutes before, he was onstage, rapping and beatboxing, singing praises, bouncing like Bob Marley. Folks in this mostly white crowd of college kids were standing in their seats, arms in the air, jamming to the beat. Hollering. Not a bad way to debut at the Garden, especially for an opening act with an unusual concept -- a Hasidic reggae singer.

"Now Matisyahu's working a different kind of performance: the industry Meet & Greet. He's making his rounds, navigating the terrain between religion and ambition, dodging potholes. For example: He's presented with a preteen fan, her dad wielding a disposable camera. The girl grins hopefully, revealing a mouthful of metal. Would he? Sure. But just before the camera clicks, she slips in closer to Matisyahu -- and he ever so slightly arches his lean frame away from the girl's, carving vital inches of space between their bodies.

"The life of a charismatic rapper-singer with crossover dreams and spiritual convictions poses its challenges.

"Matisyahu, ne Matthew Miller, has been dubbed the 'Hasidic reggae superstar,' a pat moniker of which he's none too fond. But the title sticks. It's an easy shorthand for a complex man, reducing the performer to a punch line. Still, the 26-year-old has always wanted to be a star, ever since he was a fractious teen growing up in a secular household in the New York suburbs. Right now, that star is on the ascendant: His third album, 'Youth,' drops on March 7, while his sophomore CD, 'Live at Stubb's,' has been No. 1 on Billboard's reggae chart for the past five weeks, beating out dancehall king Sean Paul. Right now, Matisyahu can be spotted on MTV, a Hasidic hunk dancing against an animated backdrop in his video 'King Without a Crown.'"


car said...

No, I'm thinking more filthy hippie peacenik knotty haired things! When are you hippies going to see it's a losing battle--Asheville is going with the money! Starbucks, Macy's and Convention Centers are all coming downtown!

jay said...

It was a great show that I'd been waiting for for some time. The opening act, Balkan Beat Box, was also incredible.

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